Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 17:42 UK

Are young people interested in the election?

Ballot boxes

You have to be 18 to vote in the UK general election and have a say in who governs, but what if you are younger? Are school students interested in politics?

School Reporters from schools in Swansea, Edinburgh and London gave their views on the significance of the election outcome - and young journalists at a school in Guildford interviewed the parliamentary candidates in their area about education.

Gracemount High, Edinburgh

"I think it's important who rules our country, because it's going to affect everyone. If laws change that might affect our families," said Ezgi, 13, from Gracemount High School in Edinburgh.

Her classmate, Chloe, 17, appreciated that issues which may not affect her now, will have an impact when she leaves school. She said: "I'm at an age now where I'll be going onto higher education and then hopefully onto a career. A lot of the things may not be valid to me just now but will be in the next couple of years, like taxes."

Phil, 16, is particularly concerned about the economy and wants to see a government that will provide more jobs. He said: "No-one in my family's been affected by the loss of a job but I know several people that have been made redundant in the last year. I think it's important that the economy picks up."

Dionne, 13, added: "I think it's important who rules our country so we can make the right laws and rules."

Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr, Swansea

Opinion was divided at Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr in Swansea, with some pupils desirous for politics lessons and others indifferent. Here are some of their comments:

"I will definitely vote when I'm old enough because I think it's really important that everyone takes part. I don't think people will have a right to complain if they didn't vote because they haven't taken part in what is their future."

"I think it's very important that young people are better educated about policies and politicians because there are a lot of things in their policies that matter to us, such as the education budget."

"I don't mind who wins because, in the past, whoever won has never had an affect on me as a person."

"I don't think the outcome will change much because all the parties have got different views, but they're good and bad, so I don't think it will change much."

"I would love to see politics come into the school curriculum, even if it's just an hour a week that we have lessons on politics, because I feel like I'm being a bit ignorant; I'm sure many people my age do. Even though I don't particularly care much about politics, I do have an opinion about it."

Mulberry School For Girls, London

At Mulberry School For Girls in London, 15 year old Koli and 13-year-old Sahra have different ideas about how interested young people are in politics.

Koli said: "I think we're not included as we maybe should be," while Sahra commented: "We're young and teenagers aren't mostly interested in politicians."

In this audio clip, Tamanna, 16, Anesa, 15, Farihah, 16, and Sarah, 18, explain why they think it is so important that people take an interest and use their vote.

Comments from students at all three schools were broadcast on the BBC's World News for Children bulletin, which is available as a downloadable podcast with accompanying scripts.

Prior to the general election, young reporters in Guildford asked three local parliamentary candidates about their parties' views on education.

Guildford politicians reveal intentions towards education
By Jamie, Harvey, Lloyd, Richard, Robert and William
School Reporters, Guildford County School, Surrey

A group of Guildford County School pupils have spent the run-up to the election researching what three prospective parliamentary candidates and their parties intend to do for education.

Conservatives

First in the spotlight was Conservative representative Anne Milton, who revealed Conservatives' pledges to improve education on both a local and a national scale.

The Conservatives share at least one ideology with the Liberal Democrats, and that is that OFSTED should, in the words of Anne Milton, "take a step back". This is due to the common belief that OFSTED is too restricting, an idea that seems to be a general consensus among teachers at Guildford County School.

Another Conservative pledge is to give freedoms to those who want to set up their own schools for their children. However, this idea was treated with much scrutiny by teachers, who thought that parents would design curriculums suited to their own beliefs.

Anne Milton assured us that such schools would be strictly monitored, and that children would be educated at home if "they were bullied or had mild special needs", but thought this would not be an issue in the local area.

This leads on to another Conservative policy, which is to reintroduce many of the special needs schools. While this will relieve many normal schools of those with special needs, it could deprive such children of important social skills.

Furthermore, Conservatives wish to reintroduce technical colleges, an idea which dissolved some years ago. When asked about this policy, Anne Milton felt that "what you want is as many options as possible". However, Mr. Houghton, an English teacher, felt that, should they run the same way as before, they would become less an option and more a compulsory form of education for those who failed certain examinations.

Meanwhile, Conservatives wish to create one hundred thousand apprenticeships annually, with a cash incentive of two thousand pounds for those businesses willing to be involved. Anne felt that this would create many opportunities. However there was some scepticism among students as to where funding for such a project would be found.

Lib Dems

Guildford County School Reporters
Guildford County School Reporters interview Lib Dems' Sue Doughty.

Second to fall under scrutiny was the Liberal Democrats' Sue Doughty, who supplied information on the party's intentions for the system.

The Liberal Democrats' education policy focuses on reducing class sizes and freeing schools from government targets and politics. We asked local Liberal Democrat candidate Sue Doughty and teachers at our school how this would affect schools in the Guildford area.

Their policy is to reduce class sizes in secondary schools to an average of sixteen, in the belief that this would make teaching easier. Teachers at our school expressed mixed feelings at this statement. Many claimed that reduced class sizes would make control easier in the classroom. However, the need for more teachers and classrooms raised concerns, with many teachers claiming that funding would be stretched to meet the sixteen pupil goal.

Local candidate Sue Doughty revealed that the plan would focus on children in infant schools. When asked where schools would be developed, she said that whether we like it or not, greenbelt land would have to be built on. She said that the government "will have to do it in the end".

Another major part of the Liberal Democrats' education policy is their goal to liberate schools from government intervention. Their Education Freedom Act would ban politicians from involvement in school matters. This was welcomed by deputy head Mrs Marchant, who asked: "Can politicians really make a difference to a school?"

The Liberal Democrats' goal to allow schools to form a unique curriculum was welcomed by head teacher Peter Costello, who said that too much pressure had been placed on schools to deliver a wide curriculum and schools "should focus on the subjects they are good at rather than providing a spectrum".

Labour

Last in the hot seat was Tim Shand, a Labour representative who was grilled about Labour's record concerning education.

Labour's education policy has been in action for the last thirteen years and in that time they introduced the Sure Start scheme, which aimed to improve education at an early level. This idea was praised by Sue Doughty, who claimed it was one of the successful actions Labour had taken.

Further, Peter Costello believes that it is often forgotten that Labour has channelled a lot of money into the education system. When mentioned to Tim Shand, he said that Labour would continue such efforts.

However, teachers in our school claimed that Labour's policy failed to restrict the involvement of OFSTED. They saw this as an obstacle, saying that it's due to the bureaucracy that some schools have very little freedom. This was reflected by a senior teacher, who spoke of how she had to spend, what could be time with her children, completing paperwork.

Tim Shand explained that some schools needed to be strictly regulated, and that paperwork is hated by some, and not so by others.

One thing that has waned under Labour government is the amount of special needs schools, due to their policy of integration. Mr Houghton spoke of the fact that schools are often burdened with students that they are not capable of teaching. He also believed, however, that integration gave those with special needs vital opportunities to develop social skills.

Each party has made different pledges concerning the system, and only time will tell whether they will live up to their promises, both on a local and a national scale.



SEE ALSO
Politicians grilled by younger generation
11 Mar 10 |  School Report

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